Flaming Macs

I’m generally quite a cautious person. So when I discovered my Powerbook battery was one of those in the current product recall, I did as suggested by Apple and removed the battery, and ran it off the power supply instead.

Big mistake. BIG mistake.

I often use my Powerbook while sitting on the bed, and this morning I was doing just that, when I went to put the kettle on. I closed the lid, putting the Powerbook to sleep and went to the kitchen.

I came back a couple of minutes later to discover smoke and sparks coming from the bed. It seems my Powerbook was jealous of all the other burning Macs and wanted to get in on the fun. Except this time it was the power cable that decided to burn:


Now, I admit this is a very small fire compared to what others have experienced, but it was enough to burn my bed. And I’m quite certain if I had left it and gone out, the whole bed (and probably the flat) would have gone up in flames.

Luckily, I quickly managed to switch it off at the mains and stop things getting any worse.

Anyway, I need the Powerbook in order to get any work done, so I immediately took the power supply back to the Apple Store in Regent Street.

I explained to one of the staff that my Powerbook was just over a year old and out of warranty, but as it had caught fire, I’d really quite like a replacement. The conversation went like this:

Apple Guy: Did you get extended Apple Cover?

Me: No

Apple Guy: In that case I can’t give you a replacement

Me: But it *caught fire*

Apple Guy: Nothing I can do.

Me: What if it had burnt my house down?

Apple Guy: Um. Sue Apple.

Yes, an Apple employee suggested I sue Apple. Admittedly this was a response to my “what if…” scenario, but I was still shocked. I’m fairly sure it’s not Apple company policy to suggest to customers they sue Apple.
I asked another staff member at the counter if I could get a replacement, and he again refused. At this point, I decided I’d just have to buy a new one or be left laptopless.

The more I think about this, the more annoyed I am. And worried. I’m not supposed to use my Powerbook on battery power, and I don’t feel particularly safe using it on mains power either. I’m a die-hard Apple fan, but I certainly won’t be buying any more Apple computers if this is the best level of service Apple can provide.


It seems I’m not alone in having a burning Powerbook power supply. These Flickr photos show people with exactly the same problem. So why hasn’t there been a power supply recall too? Are Apple waiting for someone’s house to burn down?




17 thoughts on “Flaming Macs

  1. I currently have an iBook that needs a recall.. but I suggest to stop using the Powerbook on the bed.. this is really bad for both laptop and you… The laptop needs room to ventelate itself.. even the power supply that is attached to the adapter..(I say this while using my iBook on my bed, So I know how good it is.. but i think I should stop..

  2. Ernie – yeah, I know about the ventilation issues of using laptops in bed. But this was the power adaptor rather than the laptop, and the computer was actually asleep at the time.

  3. I believe this only happened because the battery was not in the computer at the time. An Apple Employee told me that it was dangerous to use my PowerBook without the battery.

  4. I used my PowerBook on my lap and could feel how hot the battery was getting – it was extremely hot! I now no longer leave it on sleep, the trust factor has gone completely.

  5. so far no burns but it really stinks. it won’t accept the updates wont let me use the battery power Or the power supply i reall wish it would so i let my friends try and fix it up(computer mechanics) and it coms back worse.

  6. Hey about apple I saw your video of half life on your ipod nano you playing Half Life 1. And I was wondering where did you get it from, or is there a site you can download games that are programmed to work on your nano I am vary curious about those thigns because I have been looking alot, but always come up unsuccessful. If you could help me I would really appreciate, thanks alot for reading all this and be safe around those apple wires hahaha talk to you later, bye ^^

  7. Here’s the thing I’d do if I were in your shoes:

    1) subscribe to Prepaid Legal services (INVALUABLE SERVICE and its pennies per day) No, i’m not a salesman or a spammer. I subscribe to them through my work, and they have saved my ass more times than i can count.

    2) consult Prepaid Legal about ways to get around the lack of willingness to replace your defective power supply and to get your bed replaced too.

    3) Take it up with Apple’s management. Start climbing the command structure and have prepaid legal start sending letters cause they will.

    There is various things you can do to get your stuff fixed or replaced. Also it helps that the battery was on the recall list and that an apple rep told you to run the unit from the power supply only. those machines pull a lot of power which could have overloaded the power cord (because of poor engineering) should have been a heavier gauge wire. One more thing is good for you – an apple rep told you to sue apple. that in apples’ employee handbook – auto termination for creating financial troubles for apple corp.

    thats that.

  8. *sigh* the same thing happened to me only it’s and Ibook and not powerbook. my cord burned nearly through using friends computer to find out something.

    Only differences , my battery was IN my ibook but needed to be charged so I plugged it in it was sitting on table while I did some things in house ( average household type chores) anyway I came back through and smelled something hot and thought oh no the battery ( I had just filled out online to get the replacement battery ) so I rush over in time to see smoke and sparks I reach to unplug it and as I do , a small flame ignites and it burns almost completely through even though I unplugged it. Luckily my ibook didn’t catch fire. my table is burned a bit as are my fingers but I too am thankful I was around and it didn’t burn down my entire house. I was looking online and found this site, thought it was odd but apparently not unheard of. I didn’t purchase the apple care plan as I couldn’t afford it at the time and it’s been just over a year since purchase so no coverage. I do think that apple should replace our power cords I mean they are ridiculously expensive to replace and if this many are having problems chances are it’s not the owners of the laptops but a problem with the power supply.

  9. same exact issue, Ibook G4, battery was in, cable was spotty for several days, then caught fire. apple store was no help, so i forked oover another $80 for something that could have burned down my home.

    notably, my first bad apple experience after 10 years.

  10. Hi ,

    I’ve just read this your very lucky …me i wasn’t i have burnt hands and a ibook laptop that went on fire and destoryed my bedroom and bed with flames ……..I guess i was lucky if i hadn’t been at home and heard the pop / bang sound i would have lost my house in flames.

  11. Hi,
    Just been through the same thing except with a fault at the other end of the power supply – where the cable comes out of the PSU. Same fault though – the cable failing at the point where it leaves the strain relief. I noticed this because the charging started being intermittent – ‘wiggling’ the wire would make it charge properly again. When I started noticing sparking at that point as I wiggled the wire, I decided it was time to take it back….

    Now, a few years ago, when my Mac (G4 PB) was just out of warranty, the same thing happened. Then I walked in to an Apple Store in the US and before I’d really said anything, and certainly without any questions about warranties or AppleCare, they took the old PSU and handed me a new one; it was clearly a fault that was common at the time.

    This time I did have to answer all those questions, and I did have to stand my ground a lot more, and I did have to point out that it was clearly a design flaw since it had happened before, and I did have to point out that the overall design of the PSU is flawed (since the fold out ‘ears’ encourage you to wrap the cable around them, which is bad for the cable since it gets ‘kinked’ at each fold), and – and this makes me wonder if I was before or after you – I did have to ask out loud how much I could sue Apple for if I’d done nothing and my house had burnt down….

    Keep making a fuss. People making a fuss seems to spoil the clean lines of the store….

  12. I’ve just had my second laptop charger go, thats £110 worth of charger.
    This is ridiculous, it always seems to be near those weird little pieces of plastic they put on to join the wire to the next part, it sucks.

  13. I have an iBook G4. Manufactured in 2005 and bought in 2006. My charger has gone twice. Both times at the same place where the cord connects to the casing. Each time it caught fire then went up in smoke. Absolutely petrifying. The first time (2008) they replaced the charger at an Apple store after I reported it to an office in Ireland. They went through lots of questions as they were preparing some kind of report. The second time (2010) I couldn't believe it. Called the same place and filed the same kind of report. They have offered me another charger. Not happy now. I have reported the matter to Consumer Direct who in turn have reported it to Trading Standards at Westminster Council because I bought the laptop at the Apple Store in Regent Street. I suggest everyone else do the same as I did. I am also going to write to Apple Head Office stating my displeasure amongst other things.

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